steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

A Wooden O

So, goodbye Hollow Crown. After my relative disappointment with 1 Henry IV, I found I enjoyed 2 Henry IV much more than I expected - perhaps because expectations were lowered (and lower for that play anyway, rightly or wrongly), but also because a more lugubrious and cynical Falstaff strikes the right note there in a way he did not in Part One. Ironically, post-Shrewsbury he had perked up if anything, and cut a jaunty figure, both in London and with Silence and Shadow. I was sad to find Northumberland robbed of his comparison with King Priam, but the final encounter between Hal and the dying (though strangely vigorous) Henry IV was excellent, and quite converted me to Hiddlestone-as-Hal, who followed it up with a convincing rejection of Falstaff. He does tortured prince and king on his dignity better than good-time Charlie.

Having said that, his limits were shown in Henry V, where I didn't believe a bit in his religious fervour (and it wasn't that he was being a Machiavel either). Nor is he really one for the grand oration: his exhortation before Harfleur was delivered at close quarters to a few random soldiers, while the Crispin's day speech - which you can't really fail with, if you just sound like you mean it - came over as a Monday-morning office team talk. There are times when you should imitate the action of the Olivier.

I was struck, as I always am, by how much Henry obsesses about who is to take the blame for the deaths that come in war. Judged by any common sense measure, the deaths are entirely due to Henry himself, for there would be no war at all if it weren't for his trying to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels (if you take his father's line) or simply aggrandize himself with a superfluous throne. But he blames the deaths variously on a) the Archbishop of Canterbury, b) the Dauphin, c) (through Exeter) the king of France, d) the Mayor of Harfleur, and e) the common soldiers - although in this version the argument with Williams has been cut to the point of incoherence. Other cuts - and there were many - include the Archbishop's speech on the Salic law (which should be retained on feminist grounds!) and the Southampton plot, both which omissions are fairly standard these days, although I regret the latter as a necessary bridging passage between the two tetralogies. On that note, though, I did like the way they began with Henry's funeral, thus giving a nod in the direction of 1 Henry VI. Perhaps we can look forward to The Even Hollower Crown at some point next year?

Other highlights? Mistress Quickly on the death of Falstaff had me in tears.

Lowlights? Richard Griffiths hamming it up as Burgundy. Shouldn't be allowed.
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